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WW1 Army No.4 Biscuit at Cedar House Rothley

By: sally / On:

WW1 Army Biscuit No 4

Yesterday and today residents from Cedar House Care Home (Rothley) and I are having fun doing a WW1 British Army issue ration biscuit workshop – consisting of baking, reminiscing and craft.

This is part of The Last Post Project to commemorate the Anniversary of Gallipoli from the 20th – 26th April 2015.

Participants will try to recreate the ‘Huntley & Palmers Army No 4’.

British Army issue ration biscuit, ‘Huntley & Palmers Army No 4’, was made under government contract by the famous biscuit manufacturers Huntley and Palmers. This thick specimen (10cm square) is typical of the robust mass-produced comestibles that challenged the dental health of British Army personnel in both world wars. A typical way of rendering the product more edible was to grind or crumble the biscuit and add water to make a paste or ‘duff’ which could be added to mixed vegetables or stew.

The sustaining qualities of the First World War period British Army biscuit were notably endorsed by the soldier-poet Ivor Gurney, while training with the 2/5th Gloucesters in early 1915; in a letter to his friend Will Harvey he noted: ‘The Army biscuits suit me. Of course they are too hard for my poor teeth, but hot tea and patience helps one past all.’ (‘Ivor Gurney: War Letters’, edited by R K R Thornton, Carcanet New Press, 1983, p.26).

Army biscuits were frequently carved to create souvenirs – a fate to which their unpalatable hardness well suited them. For example, the centres were often cut out/ removed to create a photograph frame.